The Minister for Immigration has announced new processing priorities which apply from 14 July 2010 for General Skilled Migration and permanent employer sponsored visas.
There are four priority groups. From highest to lowest priority these are:
- Employer Sponsored: RSMS and ENS are the highest priority
- General Skilled applicants sponsored under a State Migration Plan
- General Skilled applicants with an occupation on the new SOL
- All other applicants
In addition, we also have indicative processing times:
- ETA countries (Low Risk): Five months
- Non-ETA countries (High Risk): Seven months
- State Migration Plan
- Onshore: Six months
- Offshore: 12 months
- New SOL:
- Lodged prior to July 1, 2010:
- Onshore: To be processed prior to July 1, 2011
- Offshore: To be processed prior to December 31, 2011
- Lodged after July 1, 2010:
- Onshore: 18 months
- Offshore: 18-24 months
- Otherwise: To be processed after groups 1-3 are finalised
Exempt Visa Types
Not all skilled visas are subject to the new priorities. For instance, the following continue to be processed in the order received:
- Skilled Graduate Subclass 485 – 12 months
- Skilled Recognised Graduate Subclass 476 – seven months
- Skilled Regional Subclass 887 – five months
- Cases which have been refused and appealed successfully to the MRT (Migration Review Tribunal)
- Subsequent entrants for Skilled Regional Sponsored and Skilled Graduate visas
- Applications which clearly do not meet essential criteria and which are for refusal
This is the fourth change to processing priorities since January 2009. The changes have been so frequent that even people in the higher priority categories in previous systems have not had a chance to be processed. The Critical Skills List – introduced in January 2009 – has now been abolished and effectively replaced by a much shorter Skilled Occupations List which is now being used both to limit numbers of new applications and to prioritise applications already in the system.
Note that no State Migration Plans have yet been finalised. We understand that a number of states have completed their plans and are awaiting signature from the Minister of Immigration. As the government is currently in caretaker mode, ahead of the Federal Election on August 21, these may be a few months off coming into effect.
People who were sponsored by state or territory governments receive no priority due to this unless they are sponsored under a State Migration Plan. If the nominated occupation is not on the new SOL, the application would be at the lowest priority level – despite the fact that such applicants were previously at the highest priority level.
The changes are positive for accountants – previously a minimum score of seven in the IELTS test was required for priority to be given. Now, any applicant with a skills assessment as an accountant will be at least in priority group 3.
The indicative processing time for a Skilled Graduate subclass 485 visa is far longer than is reasonable. This type of visa is only valid for 18 months from the date of grant. On the positive side, the longer DIAC takes to process a 485 visa, the longer a student has to stay in Australia with full work rights.
People in the lowest priority group have reason to be concerned because the minister has introduced a visa capping bill which would give him the ability to cancel visa applications from people meeting certain criteria (for example, occupation). Given the number of people waiting for decisions on skilled visas, the minister would be highly likely to exercise this power if the Visa Capping Bill is passed through Parliament.